Go Goan at Spice Haat, HRC



The closest I got to Goa was booking 2 tickets to fly there and then having to cancel. Yeah, life is like that sometimes.

Chef Vithal Naik 

Still, we have to look at the positives, like when Chef Vithal Naik of Grand Hyatt Goa came to Chennai with a bagful of Goan ingredients to convert Spice Haat into "A Goan State of Mind". The restaurant was decked up as a mini Goa with stalls by RASA, an NGO, selling imitation jewellery and clothes (they have some really nice ones with embroidery). Lively Goan music and the colourful clothes worn by the service crew added to the carnival- like atmosphere.

Stalls selling clothes and imitation jewellery

Kokum

I was invited to review the festival and the welcome drink, plum-coloured kokum juice was served first. It has a peculiar sweet and sour taste and is not unpleasant. It is a non-alcoholic digestif with a host of health benefits so don't forget to drink up!

Ros omelette; veg cutlet pav; mutton sukka 

Looking for the appetisers? They're right up front as you walk into the restaurant.  The ros omelette, an omelette cooked with diced tomatoes, onions and herbs is topped with a little chicken gravy. The veg cutlet pav, served with tartar sauce was the one I liked more - the cutlet was coated with rawa and was super crunchy.  

Ladyfish, sardines, basa and squid in their different marinades and then on the grill

Seafood grill platter with chilli paste

At the grilled fish counter, platters held marinated ladyfish, sardines, basa and squid rings. All that seafood is very fresh and served with an absolutely delicious peri peri paste - wait, not peri peri but Kashmiri chilli paste. Still, it was red, zesty and gave off this lovely warmth and went well not only with the grilled seafood but everything else, including the pulao!

Prawn rissois

Back at the table, the prawn rissois were waiting - deep fried half moons of dough filled with a delicious chopped prawn mix. And the chilli paste is the perfect dip; if you find that too spicy, tone it down with some of the tartar sauce. You can try to eat the grilled fish with cutlery but my advice is to just do the job with your fingers.

Chicken xacuti

Goan fish curry

Lots of mushrooms and cashewnuts in alambi kaju masala

Suran caldeen

Mooli ki bhaji; vegetable khatkhate

Main courses were arranged on the buffet counters. Everyone has a favourite way of cooking the ever-popular chicken xacuti and Chef Vittal's version, thickened with coconut paste and redolent with the aroma of spices was tasty. The vegetarian dishes were all delicious, especially suran caldeen - raw banana cubes cooked in coconut paste (could have had a whole bowl of it), vegetable khatkhate - vegetables cooked in Goan spices and mooli ki bhaji - slices of radish cooked with coconut. All these are served with rice though I did wish there were sannas to mop up the gravies with.

Chorizo pulao

Prawn pickles; more pickles

The highlight was definitely the chorizo pulao. Long, yellow grains of rice glistened in their coat of oil interspersed with chunks of the meat and the green of coriander leaves. The slightly smoky aroma of the chorizo was so alluring and it tasted fabulous. I've never had Goan sausage cooked in a pulao and this was quite a discovery. The perfect accompaniment was of course the prawn pickles.

Bibinca; doce; dodol

There are plenty of desserts to choose from and if, like me, you're only interested in the Goan ones, there's bibinca, doce and dodol. The bibinca and dodol are delish and worth keeping some space in the tummy for them.

Goan State of Mind is on till July 23rd, 2017 and is priced at 1450/++ per head. 

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